Viazi is a Samburu mongrel bitch with a curly tail. She is one of the most delightful, wonderful creatures I’ve known in my life. Her energy is boundless, she is always cheery and she’s been my great friend. When our collie Sasi had her litter of puppies in a heavy thunderstorm on the farm before the pandemic, we assumed Jock the Labrador was the father. It later became evident that Sasi had been jumped by a roving Samburu cattle dog. We found homes for all of the puppies except for this little girl, who was as brown and as round as a baked potato — so we named her Viazi, which in Swahili means “potatoes.” I suppose our son Rider loved Jock the most, Claire and our daughter Eve loved Sasi, and I was left with Viazi to love.
A couple of years ago, a leopard ate a man on a nearby farm and stored his remains in the branches of an acacia
It has been an adventurous life for her. On our very long walks across the farm, the dogs always have an antelope, African hare or flock of guinea fowl to chase after. Sasi used to go like a bullet, but as she has grown older, Viazi has taken over as the one who leads out in front. We have been lax in our training and cannot stop them when we encounter a herd of plains zebra, which buck and kick their hind legs out as Viazi barks at their tails.
Several times we have had run-ins with snakes, including the Ashe’s large brown cobra, the largest of all the spitting cobras. These can be ten-feet-long and they have a habit of slithering into the house on hot dry days.
I’ve seen a neighbor’s dog blinded by cobra venom, but ours have miraculously managed to dodge the flying spit and the serpents end up either dead or in flight from the barking pack. The only thing Viazi fears is Echo, one of the cats, though she gets on well with the other felines, Bernini and Omar.
One day Viazi took off on a mission at full speed and as she got close to a thorn tree, we saw there was a sub-adult leopard in the branches. Viazi did not check her stride and the leopard then went into full retreat across the savannah — but not before taking a swipe at the dog, opening a nasty gash along her flank.
The vet later said Viazi was lucky to survive, because had the leopard been an adult, she would have been killed. Cat wounds can also turn bad very quickly. Leopards love the taste of a dog and there is a big, old male cat around here who returns regularly to the farmstead after dark to sniff around near where the pets sleep. A couple of years ago, a leopard, probably that same one, ate a man on a nearby farm and stored his remains in the high branches of an acacia.
But this is how we came closest to losing Viazi. I was out doing my rounds on the farm when I heard the bark of apes somewhere in the bush up ahead. A troop of about thirty baboons often wanders in and out of the farm. We rarely bother each other, though once when the children were little I happened upon a big dog baboon sitting in a tree in the garden, quietly observing Rider, evidently planning how to seize and eat him.
Baboons are formidable animals, with big teeth, very sharp dirty claws and a simian bloodlust. On this day out with Viazi, before I knew it, she had torn off ahead of me into a thicket and a few seconds later I heard a loud yelp. When I finally caught up with her, she had deep bite wounds and long claw gashes along her flank. She was bleeding badly as I took her home to the farmstead. Everybody else was away and I called my neighbor Tom, who sent over some lidocaine and a veterinary stitching kit.
I cleaned out Viazi’s bloody sides, soaked the injuries with Betadine and jabbed her with antibiotic, but I had no idea what to do with the needle and thread by myself. I couldn’t pinch her wounds together and stitch at the same time. After fiddling about and losing valuable time getting nowhere, I got a tube of superglue, squeezed this along the gash lines and pulled the wounds together. Incredibly, the glue held and I was able to get Viazi to stay quietly in our bedroom to recover. Within days she bounced back, though now she looks highly impressive with large chunks of fur all gone and long scars down her back and sides.